The Unstoppable Edwina Troutt

Her father, a cabinet maker, set wood aside to build her coffin soon after she was born. But the sickly baby defied her doctors and survived. And at the age of 27, Edwina Troutt survived the sinking of the Titanic. She later said, 'I felt I was saved for something.'

young edwina

young edwina

Edwina Troutt

Edwina Celia Troutt was born June 8, 1884 in Bath, England. She endured a chronic lung condition and developed pneumonia as a teenager, which left her with only one functioning lung. Still in her youth, failing eyesight and inflamed joints added to her troubles, but she refused to let anything keep her from living her life to the fullest. She became a pre-school teacher and worked in her brother-in-law's shop, then crossed the Atlantic for the first time at age 23 on a dare from friends. She planned to stay five years in New England, working in New Jersey and then in Massachusetts. But the cold New England winters were too much for her compromised respiratory system, and she returned to Bath six months early. However, her sister Elise, also living in Massachusetts by then, was about to give birth and asked Edwina (Winnie) to return, so she booked a second class cabin aboard the Titanic for the voyage back to New York.

Winnie roomed with two other single women and made more friends on board, playing cards and exchanging stories with them. On Sunday, April 14th, she prepared for bed but didn't completely undress. When the ship struck the iceberg and the engines were stopped, Winnie hurried to investigate. She returned to the cabin to help her roommates to the Boat Deck. At first, Winnie stood back and watched the loading of the lifeboats and thought it sad that so many newly-married couples were being separated. Then, third class passenger Charles Thomas from Lebanon approached, holding a baby. He'd been separated from his sister-in-law, the baby's mother, and was imploring anyone within earshot to take the baby aboard a lifeboat.

Winnie immediately took the baby and boarded the next lifeboat. Later, she wrote, 'I felt I was saved for something, so I vowed never to quarrel and always be kind to the sick and elderly.' Four years later, she moved to California and met her first husband, Alfred Peterson.

edwina-troutt and peterson

edwina-troutt and peterson

Alfred and Edwina Peterson in 1923

He died in 1944, and Winnie married twice more. She became a US citizen and worked for several civic organizations. She participated in the reunions of Titanic survivors, and is remembered for her outrageous sense of humor and pleasant personality. She traveled the world to speak about the Titanic, crossing the Atlantic at least ten more times by ship.



Edwina Troutt Peterson Corrigan Mackenzie died in California in 1984, at the age of 100.

Photo credits:,

A Titanic Timeline Part II

Last time, we began with a glimpse into Titanic’s maiden voyage, beginning with the preparations in Southampton on April 5, 1912. On Sailing Day, April 10th, Titanic departed Southampton on what would be her only voyage, carrying 2,208 passengers and crew.

leaving southampton

leaving southampton

Titanic departing Southampton April 10, 1912

The Titanic headed across the English Channel for Cherbourg, France, where 24 passengers disembarked and 274 passengers came aboard via tenders. Just after 8:00 pm, the ship was again under way. The first dinner on board had been served in all classes, and passengers spent the evening acquainting themselves with the ship, preparing their children for bed, or strolling the pristine outside decks to gaze at the brilliant canopy of stars.

April 11. At 11:30 am, Titanic dropped anchor two miles offshore at Queenstown, Ireland. Tenders transported 120 passengers and 1,385 sacks of mail to the ship. Two hours later, the Titanic headed out to sea. For most of those on board, they would not see land again.

last_titanic_photo leaving Queenstown

last_titanic_photo leaving Queenstown

Last photo of the ship as it left Queenstown

April 12. Passengers spent the next three days enjoying the ship’s many amenities. Even third class passengers marveled at the bright and spacious public rooms and delicious food. There were few scheduled activities, other than dining hours.

April 13. First class passengers looked forward to the noon posting each day in the smoking room of the previous day’s run. From Thursday, April 11 to Friday, April 12, the ship traveled 386 nautical miles. From Friday April 12 to Saturday April 13, 519 miles, and from Saturday April 13 to Sunday April 14, 546 miles were logged.

titanicsmoking room

titanicsmoking room

April 14. On Sunday, a church service was held in the first class dining saloon. The temperature dropped, and Titanic received several ice warnings over the wireless from other ships in the area. Around 6:00 pm, Captain Smith gave orders for her course to be altered slightly due to the warnings. At 10:00 pm, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee took their post in the crow’s nest. At 11:30 pm, Fleet sighted an iceberg and warned the officers on the bridge. Quartermaster Robert Hichens responded immediately to the order to turn the ship ‘Hard-a-starboard.’ The ship turned, but not enough. Less than a minute passed from the moment Fleet sighted the iceberg to collision.

crows nest

crows nest

Crow's nest half-way up mast on left. The bridge, with several windows, is behind it on top deck

April 15. With approximately 1500 passengers and crew still on board, the RMS Titanic sank in the north Atlantic at 2:20 am. Hundreds fell to their deaths, drowned, or died of hypothermia in the frigid waters. All twenty lifeboats, many carrying fewer than their capacity, drifted in a calm, frigid sea until dawn. The RMS Carpathia, having received Titanic’s distress calls, raced through the ice field to rescue the surviving 712 men, women, and children. Carpathia passengers and crew did their best to accommodate and comfort those from the Titanic. Captain Arthur Rostron set a course for New York.



Titanic lifeboat alongside Carpathia

Photo credits:,,

A brave young immigrant

When Anna Sophia Turja of Finland boarded the Titanic in Southampton on April 10, 1912, she looked forward to starting a new life in America at the home of her sister and brother-in-law. The couple had paid for Anna’s third class passage, and she planned to work in her brother-in-law’s store in Ashtabula, Ohio.



Anna Sophia Turja

Anna, 18,  shared a cabin with two women from Finland and one of the women’s two young children. She was fascinated with the size of Titanic and all it had to offer, even for third class passengers. On the night of April 14, Anna was awakened by what she described as a shudder. Unconcerned, she remained in bed until a brother of one of the women came to their door, telling them to get dressed and get up on deck, “unless you want to find yourselves at the bottom of the ocean.”



Third class stairway on Titanic

Not believing they were in any real danger, the women took their time dressing. They made their way through the maze of corridors and stairways, until a crewmember ordered them to stop. When they refused, he let them pass, but locked the doors behind them. None of the group spoke English. Anna stated, “We were not told what happened, but had to do our own thinking.”

On the Boat Deck, Anna and her friends listened to the ship’s orchestra until after midnight. The crew worked quietly to get women and children to the lifeboats, but Anna was certain the Titanic wouldn’t sink and they would be safe. She wandered to a lower deck, where a crewman grabbed her and put her into a lifeboat, possibly Lifeboat 15. She did not see her friends again.



Two Titanic lifeboats as seen from Carpathia

After watching the Titanic sink, Anna later recalled the worst part of the entire night. "The voices, the screams and the cries for help of those left on the deck as the ship went under…”

On board the Carpathia following rescue, Anna remembered the kindnesses shown to the Titanic survivors by the Carpathia’s passengers. "The people were so wonderful," she said. “For me it was a welcome to America, even under the circumstances."



Survivors aboard the Carpathia

After their arrival in New York, rather than being processed through Ellis Island, Anna and the other immigrants who survived the Titanic were sent to local hospitals. The Red Cross and other organizations provided clothing and immediate needs, and White Star Line paid her hospital bill. Anna was sent on to her destination, Ashtabula, Ohio, by train.



Anna Turja

A few weeks later at her sister’s home, Anna learned that somehow her name hadn’t been on any of the survivor lists in the Finnish papers. Her family there had thought she had died, until she could write to them.

Anna soon met her brother-in-law’s brother, Emil Lundi. They were later married and had seven children and 18 grandchildren. She never did go to work for her brother-in-law, and never learned to speak English. Her son, Martin Lundi, who later became a Lutheran minister, acted as interpreter during interviews. In 1953, he and his mother were invited to attend a showing of a new Titanic movie, starring Barbara Stanwyk. It was the first movie she had ever seen. Afterwards, Anna turned to her son in tears and asked, “If they were so close to take those pictures, why didn't someone help us?” It took some time to convince his mother the movie was not real.



Anna Turja Lundi

Anna outlived Emil by 30 years. She died in California in 1982 at the age of 89. She is buried in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Photo credits:,,

The Queen of the Seas: Then and Now

Even before her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, the RMS Titanic was sometimes called the Queen of the Seas. She was the largest and most elegant ocean liner in the world, and would surpass all other ocean-going passenger ships in size, speed, and luxury. Tragically, she collided with an iceberg on her debut voyage and sank, killing over 1500 passengers and crewmembers. Today, a new Queen makes regular transatlantic crossings. The RMS Queen Mary 2, built in 2003, is the only ocean liner in service between Southampton and New York, and has claimed the title of the largest ocean liner ever built, once held by Titanic.  At 1,132 feet long, the Queen Mary 2 surpasses Titanic's length of 882.5 feet by 249.5 feet.


Cunard's Queen Mary 2

Designed to be an ocean liner, the QM2 was built using 40% more steel than most of today’s cruise ships. Her top speed is 30 knots, with a cruising speed of 26 knots. In comparison, Titanic’s maximum speed was between 24 and 25 knots.

Instead of running on coal-powered steam as Titanic did, the Queen Mary 2 has a propulsion system including 4 diesel engines and 2 gas turbines.

What are some other comparisons between the Queen Mary 2 and the Titanic?

Passengers and Crew

Titanic was capable of carrying 3,547 passengers and crew. On her maiden voyage, approximately 2,208 were aboard, including 885 crew members.

The Queen Mary 2 has a passenger capacity of 2,695 and carries 1,253 crew members.


Titanic had 9 decks. The QM2 has 14 passenger decks with 18 total decks.


Passengers stroll near lifeboats aboard Titanic


A view of some of QM2's decks as the ship navigates New York Harbor


The Titanic had three large dining rooms, one for each class. The Parisian Café and Veranda Café were also available to first class passengers.


Titanic's first class dining saloon

The Queen Mary 2 has 15 restaurants and bars for the use of all passengers.


The Britannia Restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2


Most of Titanic’s passenger facilities (swimming pool, Turkish baths, gymnasium, squash court) were for first class passengers only. First and second class each had their own library, and smoking rooms for men only. Reading and writing rooms were available for the ladies. Third class passengers could use the General Room for conversation, games, and music.

The QM2 boasts an unprecedented number of activities for its passengers, including dancing in the largest ballroom at sea, 5 swimming pools, sports and fitness activities, a planetarium, children’s program, singers, dancers, and comedians, and a full-service spa.


Titanic carried 20 lifeboats, with a total capacity of 1,178. Following the disaster, new maritime laws required all sea-going vessels to have enough lifeboats for every passenger and crew, plus one-third.


Lifeboats aboard Titanic

The Queen Mary 2 life-saving equipment consists of two fast 6-person rescue boats (up to 25 knots), 14 150-person semi-enclosed lifeboats (6 knots), and eight 150-person combination tender/lifeboats. In addition, the ship has life rafts with a capacity of 37 persons each.


Lifeboats on Queen Mary 2


The cost of a third class ticket on Titanic, in today’s prices, would run from $298 - $793.

Queen Mary 2 offers several different prices for a one-way voyage from New York to Southampton, depending on the type of room. A standard inside cabin starts at $1,099 per person.


Photo credits:,

The Car Aboard Titanic

Titanic’s cargo consisted of a wide variety of items being exported to America—everything from “dragon’s blood” used in cosmetics, cases of ostrich feathers for women’s hats, and even a rare copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Passengers, of course, brought along their trunks, furniture, other household items, and pets. The total value of the cargo would be valued at over $200 million today. Many artifacts have been found during expeditions to the wreck site, but one of the largest, a 1911 Renault Coupe de Ville, remains buried beneath the north Atlantic.



The Renault was produced from 1905-1914 and had a top speed of 35 mph. It was listed on the Titanic cargo manifest, a copy of which was safely aboard the Cunard liner Mauritania. It had been purchased in Europe by William Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Lucile, boarded the Titanic at Southampton, along with their two children, a maid, a manservant, and a chauffeur.



Portion of Titanic's Cargo Manifest

In addition to the new Renault, the Carters also brought with them two dogs, a Spaniel and an Airedale. The family had previously moved to Europe, but spent summers in Bryn Mawr and Newport, Rhode Island. They planned to return to Bryn Mawr when the Titanic reached New York.

Shortly before Titanic sank, Carter managed to secure a place in the Collapsible Lifeboat C. His wife claimed he reached the Carpathia before she and the children did, and that he had deserted them during the loading of the boats. They were later divorced.



William Carter

The Renault, made famous in the film Titanic, was not conveniently parked in the hold but had actually been shipped in a large case, according to the cargo manifest, perhaps with some assembly required. Following rescue, Carter filed a claim with the White Star Line for $5000 for the car, and $100 and $200 for the dogs.

A fully restored Renault, made to the same specifications as Carter’s, sold in 2003 for $269,900.

Photo Credits:,

The Artist Aboard Titanic

One of Titanic's many famous passengers was Francis Davis Millet. During the Civil War, Millet had served as a drummer boy and later as a surgical assistant. He entered Harvard, became a reporter, and enjoyed drawing portraits of friends in his spare time. He then turned seriously to art and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium, winning medals for his work. Millet continued to work as a journalist and translator during the Russian-Turkish War, and later published accounts of his travels as well as short stories and essays.



Frank Millet

Millet married, and the couple had four children. He became an accomplished painter and organized the American Federation of the Arts for the National Academy. His paintings can be seen in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery in London, Trinity Church in Boston, and several other public buildings throughout the United States. His many friends included President William Howard Taft, author Mark Twain, and impressionist artist John Singer Sargent.



Millet at work in his studio



A Cozy Corner



A Difficult Duet



Between Two Fires



Playing With Baby

In 1912, Millet persuaded another friend, Major Archibald Butt, 45, to join him on a six-week trip to Europe. Butt, whose health had recently deteriorated, was a close friend and military aide to President Taft. They visited Naples, Gibraltar, and Rome, where Butt met with Pope Pius X. The men booked first class tickets for their return voyage to the US on the Titanic.

While the ship was docked at Queenstown, Ireland, Millet wrote to a friend with his opinion of some of his fellow passengers: "Obnoxious, ostentatious American women are the scourge of any place they infest and worse on shipboard than anywhere. Many of them carry tiny dogs and lead husbands around like pet lambs. I tell you, when she starts out, the American woman is a buster. She should be put in a harem and kept there."

Following the collision and rescue, Colonel Archibald Gracie testified he had seen Millet and Butt playing bridge with two other male passengers before the ship hit the iceberg. He stated the card game had continued with barely an interruption, even as the lifeboats were loaded. Other survivors recalled seeing Millet and Butt helping women and children into lifeboats.

Frank Millet’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and sent to Boston for burial. He was 65. The body of Archibald Butt was not recovered. A memorial fountain was dedicated to the two men in Washington D.C.



Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain

Photo credits:,,,

Denver's Unsinkable Titanic Passenger

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Margaret Brown’s home in Denver and learn more about this fascinating Titanic survivor and her family.



Given the name Unsinkable Molly Brown in a stage play about her life, Margaret Brown did much more than help row her lifeboat following Titanic’s collision with the iceberg. She raised funds to help survivors, ensured Captain Rostron of the Carpathia received recognition for the rescue efforts, and erected memorials in New York City and Washington D.C. to honor the victims.



Margaret Brown

Born in 1867, Margaret (Maggie) Ann Tobin hopped a train at the age of 18 and left her family in Hannibal, Missouri to share a cabin with her brother, a miner, in Leadville, Colorado in the hope of finding a husband. She took a job at Leadville’s Daniels and Fisher Mercantile, and met James Joseph (J.J.) Brown at a church picnic. J.J. was a silver miner whose parents had immigrated from Ireland. Margaret and J.J. were married in 1886 and soon welcomed a son, Larry, and a daughter, Helen. Margaret later said those were the happiest years of her life.



Helen, J.J., Margaret, and Larry Brown

While Margaret became active in the women’s suffrage movement in Colorado, the Leadville silver mines suffered under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. But J.J. Brown had an idea to extract gold from Leadville’s Little Jonny Mine. His idea worked, and the mine began daily shipments of 135 tons of ore. As J.J. became a successful and well-paid mining executive, the family purchased a home in Denver for $30,000. They also bought a vacation home near the mountains.



The Brown's Denver home during the late 19th century

J.J. and Margaret filled their home with an eclectic mix of fine Victorian furniture, art, books, and treasures from their travels abroad. The home had electricity, indoor plumbing, and even a telephone near the formal parlor.





Top row from left: Staircase, Helen's bedroom, Parlor

Bottom row from left: J.J.'s bedroom, Margaret's bedroom

Margaret worked with established organizations dedicated to women’s rights, literacy, and education, or founded them herself. She raised funds to build a local hospital and a cathedral, helped start the first juvenile court in the US, became one of the first women in the US to run for political office, and worked tirelessly for improvements in labor and human rights.

J.J.’s health began to suffer, along with the couple’s marriage. With the children in boarding schools, Margaret spent more of her time in Newport, Rhode Island, where she and J.J. had rented a cottage. In 1909, the couple were separated. Margaret continued her work on the important issues that concerned her. She also traveled extensively and learned five languages. The books in the home's library reflect a wide variety of interests.

In 1912, Margaret and Helen were traveling with John Jacob Astor and his wife in Cairo, Egypt. Margaret received word that her grandson, Larry Jr., was ill. Helen, a student at the Sorbonne in Paris, decided to remain in Europe, but Margaret chose to return to New York with the Astor’s on the Titanic.

Following the collision, Margaret boarded Lifeboat 6. She and other women in the lifeboat helped row and kept the passengers’ spirits up until they were rescued by the Carpathia the next morning. She immediately began raising funds to help the survivors. On my tour of her home, the story was told that Margaret posted a list of the first class passengers and noted the amount of their contributions next to each name. No one wanted to have a blank space next to their name, and by the time the Carpathia reached New York, $10,000 had been pledged.



Carpathia's Captain Rostron with Margaret Brown

Practically overnight, Margaret became known as one of the heroines of the Titanic. She continued working for women’s rights and other causes, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of war-torn areas in France following World War I. She died in New York in 1932 at age 65, and is buried next to J.J. on Long Island, NY.

The Brown’s Denver home, once known as the House of Lions, was often rented out while the family traveled. After J.J.’s death, Margaret was forced to turn it into a boarding house during the Depression, and it was sold after her death for $6,000. It became a rooming house for men, and later, a home for wayward girls. It was scheduled for demolition in 1970, but was saved by a group of concerned citizens who formed Historic Denver Inc. and raised funds for its restoration to its former glory. The home is now open daily for tours, and features many of the Brown family belongings, photographs, and mementos. A display of Titanic memorabilia and the story of the tragedy and Margaret's part in it is also included on the tour.



Souvenirs from the Molly Brown House Museum



My family visiting Molly's house

Contrary to popular belief, Margaret was highly-regarded among most of the upper class during her time. For further reading, please see Unraveling the Myth by Kristen Iverson.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Molly Brown House Museum,

The Lady and the Pig

Born in Cincinnati in 1879 to a wealthy Jewish family, Edith Louise Rosenbaum took an interest in fashion at an early age. After attending a series of finishing schools, she moved to Paris to become a saleswoman for a haute couture fashion house. Soon afterward, she wrote for a fashion journal connected with Philadelphia-based Wanamaker’s Department Store and designed fashions for Butterick Patterns. Then in 1910, a new trade publication for the garment industry, Women’sWear Daily in New York, hired Edith to be their Paris correspondent. She covered all the style shows and wrote a front-page column about current trends and her impressions of everyone and everything connected with the fashion world.



Edith Rosenbaum in 1911

The following year, Edith became engaged to Ludwig Loewe from Berlin. While riding with him and their friends across France to cover the fashions at the Deauville races, their car crashed into a tree, killing Ludwig and throwing Edith to the back of the vehicle. She suffered a concussion and had no memory of the crash afterward. Her mother later gave her a small stuffed toy pig, perhaps hearing that pigs were a symbol of good luck in France. The pig was covered in black and white fur, and played a popular tune called La Maxixe when its tail was wound. Edith would later give partial credit to the pig for her escape from Titanic.

By 1912, Edith became a buyer in Paris for a number of American firms in addition to her work at Women’s Wear Daily. Anxious to return to New York with purchases for her clients, she booked passage on April 5 on the ship George Washington, which would sail on Easter Sunday, two days later. But her editor called and asked her to delay her return in order to cover a race on Sunday. So Edith changed her ticket to the Titanic, sailing April 10th from Cherbourg.

Edith brought 19 pieces of baggage aboard the ship, and possibly booked a second cabin for them, in addition to her own first class cabin. When the ship struck the iceberg on the night of April 14, Edith locked all her trunks, made her way to the deck, and watched the proceedings from the lounge. When she saw her steward, Robert Wareham, she asked him to retrieve her pig from her stateroom, which he did. When White Star Line’s Bruce Ismay noticed her in the lounge, he insisted she get into a lifeboat. A crewmember threw the pig into Boat 11, and Edith climbed in. Although the pig’s nose and two legs were broken, it helped entertain the children aboard the lifeboat as the survivors awaited rescue.



Edith holding her lucky pig

On April 19, Edith reported in Women’s Wear Daily on the garments worn by Titanic’s most elite passengers, even as they made their escape from the ship. She then sued White Star Line for nearly $15,000 plus $2,000 left in the purser’s safe, but only received 3 cents on the dollar. It took her several years to pay back her clients and recover her losses.

“I’m accident prone. . . I’ve had every disaster but bubonic plague and a husband.”

She continued work as a fashion buyer until 1937, changed her last name to Russell, traveled extensively, and became a well-known celebrity and authority on the Titanic disaster.  She often posed with her stuffed pig, which could no longer be played. She lived in London until her death at age 95.

E Russell later years with pig

E Russell later years with pig

Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, a book about the tragedy, inherited Edith’s famous pig. He later bequeathed it to the National Maritime Museum in London. After the 2012 centennial commemoration of the sinking, the museum restored the pig’s music mechanism. Today, La Maxixe can be heard once again.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Wikipedia

A Survivor's Heartache

At 20, Charlotte Tate left her home in Surrey, England and went to work as a cook and housekeeper for the Vicar in a nearby town. She is believed to have met Harvey Collyer there, who was the church sexton and verger, or clerk. Charlotte and Harvey were married, and soon had one daughter, named Marjorie. When the Vicar moved to another church in Hampshire, the Tates followed. Harvey continued as verger, served on the church council, and as bell ringer. He also ran the town grocery store.

collyer family

collyer family

The Collyer Family

Friends of the family had moved to Payette, Idaho, where they had started a successful fruit farm. They wrote of the beauty of the land and climate, urging Harvey and Charlotte to join them. They didn’t take their friends’ suggestion seriously, at first. But Charlotte had developed tuberculosis, and found it increasingly harder to breathe. Finally, for Charlotte's sake, they decided to move to Idaho, and booked passage on the Titanic.

“I had never been on an ocean voyage,” Charlotte later said, “and I was afraid of the sea. But I listened to the people who said, ‘Take the new Titanic. She cannot come to any harm. New inventions have made her safe; and then, the officers will be extra careful on her first trip.’”

titanic advertisement

titanic advertisement

Harvey sold the grocery store and most of the family’s possessions. He took $5,000 in cash, against the advice of a bank teller, who suggested he take a draft note. The church members gave a long surprise sendoff for the family by ringing all the bells for an hour. Charlotte later said, “It was almost too much of a farewell ceremony.”

Like so many others aboard Titanic after the ship struck the iceberg, the family didn’t realize the extent of the danger until well after the first lifeboats were loaded. Charlotte and Marjorie were put into Lifeboat 14. Harvey’s body, if recovered, was not identified. Charlotte wrote to her mother from New York, a few days after arrival on the Carpathia:

My dear Mother and all, I don't know how to write to you or what to say, I feel I shall go mad sometimes but dear as much as my heart aches it aches for you too for he is your son and the best that ever lived. I had not given up hope till today that he might be found but I'm told all boats are accounted for. Oh mother how can I live without him. I wish I'd gone with him if they had not wrenched Madge from me I should have stayed and gone with him. But they threw her into the boat and pulled me in too but he was so calm and I know he would rather I lived for her little sake otherwise she would have been an orphan. The agony of that night can never be told. Poor mite was frozen. I have been ill but have been taken care of by a rich New York doctor and feel better now. They are giving us every comfort and have collected quite a few pounds for us and loaded us with clothes and a gentleman on Monday is taking us to the White Star office and also to another office to get us some money from the funds that is being raised here. Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping. Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. Oh she is a comfort but she don'trealise yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, sendme on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. Mrs Hallets brother from Chicago is doing al he can for us in fact the night we landed in New York (in our nightgowns) he had engaged a room at a big hotel with food and every comfort waiting for us. He has been a father to us. I will send his address on a card… perhaps you might like to write to him some time. God Bless you dear mother and help and comfort you in this awful sorrow. Your loving child Lot.



Charlotte and Marjorie following the Titanic disaster

Charlotte and Marjorie were destitute, but with donations from the American Red Cross and other funds, they went on to Idaho as they planned. But Harvey’s loss was too much to bear. Charlotte sold her story to a newspaper for $300, and after friends in New York raised additional funds, she and Marjorie returned to England.

Charlotte remarried, but died of tuberculosis at age 35. Marjorie went to live with an uncle until she was married. The couple had one child who died in infancy. Her husband died at age 41, and she remained a widow, working as a doctor’s receptionist. She was moved to a nursing home in the 1960s due to ill health, and died of a stroke at the age of 61.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica,,

One Survivor's Happy Ending

  On April 18, 1912, the survivors of the Titanic left the Carpathia after it docked in New York City. Many of the sick and injured were taken by ambulance to nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital. Among them was 26-year-old Sarah Roth, an immigrant from England who had boarded Titanic as a third class passenger.

Sarah had been engaged for several years to Daniel Iles, a grocery warehouseman. Daniel emigrated to New York in 1911 and became a department store clerk, saving money until he had enough to send for Sarah. At home, Sarah waited and sewed her wedding dress. Finally, Daniel purchased Sarah’s third class ticket to New York on Titanic. They would meet in New York, where they would be married.



Sarah's inspection ticket, required for entry into the United States.

Sarah Roth letter

Sarah Roth letter

Letter from Sarah to her mother, written aboard Titanic

On board the ship, Sarah made friends with several passengers her age, including Emily Badman, mentioned in the above letter. When Titanic struck the iceberg, Sarah woke, sensing the ship had stopped moving. She dressed quickly and met her friends in the corridor, where they were initially told by a group of stewards that there was no need for alarm. She recalled later how a ship’s officer had prevented them from ascending a ladder to an upper deck. When they were finally allowed to use the ladder, most of the lifeboats had gone. Sarah and Emily ran toward the bow and managed to board one of the collapsible lifeboats. Sarah’s wedding dress went down with the ship.

At St. Vincent’s, the hospital staff soon learned of Sarah’s engagement to Daniel and wanted to bring some joy to the tragedy. They contacted Daniel, who professed his love for Sarah. A priest from Church of Our Lady of the Rosary agreed to officiate. Fellow survivor Emily would serve as maid-of-honor, and the Women’s Relief Committee would contribute a trousseau and bouquet.



Ambulance transporting a patient to St. Vincent's Hospital



Entrance to St. Vincent's, New York's first Catholic hospital



Titanic survivors at St. Vincent's

A newspaper reported, “The news of the impending wedding spread quickly through the hospital, and doctors, nurses, charity workers, patients and survivors begged to be allowed to witness the ceremony.” One of the volunteers helping at St. Vincent’s was the wealthy Mrs. Louise Vanderbilt. Following the ceremony, she was among the first of the well-wishers to congratulate the new Mr. and Mrs. Iles.

Sarah and Daniel made their home in Manhattan and had one son, named Albert Daniel. They moved to Connecticut, where Sarah died in 1947. Her husband Daniel died in 1966.

Sarah had two brothers, Harry and Samuel Roth. Harry's grandchildren, Sarah's great-nieces, have reached out to me in order to provide an update about the living family members.

Harry had two children, Arthur and Viola. Sarah was their aunt. Arthur is now 96 years old and lives in North Carolina. He and his wife had three children, Karen, Pamela, and Charles Roth. Viola married and had four daughters--Louise, Janet, Joyce, and Carolyn. As children, they heard of Sarah's voyage and her marriage to Daniel Iles. All seven are living.

Albert, Sarah and Daniel's only child, did not have children of his own when he married, but his wife's child from a previous marriage has living descendants.

No doubt, these families will continue to share the story with generations to come of Sarah Roth and her narrow escape from the Titanic.

Photo credits: Wikimedia, Encyclopedia Titanica

The Voyage to New York

The RMS Carpathia, carrying 743 passengers, left New York on April 11, 1912, bound for a Mediterranean cruise. But a different purpose was in store for the Cunard Line ship—rescuing the survivors of the Titanic.


RMS Carpathia

While crossing the Atlantic early on April 15th, Carpathia’s captain, Arthur Rostron, nicknamed “Electric Spark” for his energy and quick decision making, responded to Titanic’s distress calls and sped for her last given location. With six icebergs to steer around, the Carpathia reached Titanic’s lifeboats just before sunrise. Four hours later, the 712 survivors were aboard Carpathia, and the lifeboats were hoisted aboard.

Titanic lifeboats approaching Carpathia

Lifeboats from the Titanic approaching the Carpathia

Women from the Titanic lined the rails, still watching for their husbands, fathers, and sons. As they were led away in tears, the Carpathia set a new course for New York City. While the world awaited the names of survivors and details of what happened to Titanic, the Carpathia passengers and crew set about caring for the injured, cold, and grief-stricken. Passengers shared their clothing, blankets, and toiletries. Some gave up or shared their cabins. Captain Rostron himself gave his cabin to three Titanic women who were now widows, including Mrs. John Jacob Astor. Plenty of hot drinks and meals were prepared and distributed among the various public rooms holding the majority of survivors. Women from both ships turned blankets into long makeshift dresses for children who had been wearing only nightgowns in the lifeboats.


Groups of Titanic survivors aboard the Carpathia

Most Titanic passengers kept to themselves, too exhausted or in shock to want to socialize. Some sent wireless messages to loved ones or employers. Harold Bride, Titanic’s surviving wireless operator, rested his frostbitten feet and helped send the messages.


Partial list of Titanic passengers aboard the Carpathia

The Carpathia arrived in New York in the evening of April 18th, stopping at White Star Line’s Pier 59 to unload Titanic’s lifeboats. Titanic crewmen rowed them ashore, their last task for the ill-fated liner. Dozens of small boats surrounded the Carpathia, as reporters on the boats shouted questions to the crew through megaphones. She then docked at Pier 54, the Cunard Line dock.

crowd waiting for carpathia

Crowd waiting at Pier 54 for the Carpathia

A crowd of close to 40,000 waited in the cold rain. Many were hoping to meet loved ones from the Titanic, not knowing for sure yet if they had survived. Titanic passengers left the ship first, followed by those who had boarded the Carpathia one week earlier. While happy reunions took place for many in the crowd, others waited for hours and finally left in tears when all passengers had disembarked and their loved one was not among them.

H Bride (Lof congress)

Harold Bride is carried off the Carpathia

Those passengers met by relatives or friends were led to cars or taxis. Others who had no one to meet them were taken to New York’s St. Vincent’s Hospital or assisted by relief agencies. Following the Senate inquiry into the disaster, Titanic’s surviving crewmembers returned to England and most returned to work at sea.

pier 54 today

Pier 54 today

Captain Rostron of the Carpathia was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress, knighted by King George V, and became Commodore of the entire Cunard fleet. The Carpathia served as a troop transport ship during World War I. She was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918, killing five crewmen. All other passengers and crew were rescued before she sank west of Land’s End in Cornwall.

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica, Library of Congress, Wikipedia

Titanic's Reliable Fourth Officer

At age 15, Joseph Groves Boxhall of Yorkshire couldn’t wait to begin a life at sea like his grandfather, father, and uncle before him. He became an apprentice with the William Thomas Line, and joined ships sailing for ports in Russia, the Mediterranean, North and South America, and Australia. By 1907, at the age of 23, Boxhall earned his Extra-Masters Certificate and joined the White Star Line. As Sixth Officer on the Oceanic, he met another future Titanic officer, Charles Lightoller. Then, after a year aboard WSL’s Arabic on its North Atlantic run, he signed on as Fourth Officer for RMS Titanic. Once at sea, Boxhall’s duties included regular watches, navigation, and assisting passengers and crew.


Officer Joseph Boxhall

Aboard the Titanic on the night of April 14, 1912, Officer Boxhall was having a cup of tea in his cabin near the bridge. He heard the sound of the three warning bells from the crow’s nest and went to see what happened. As he reached the bridge, Captain Smith instructed him to go below and check the forward part of the ship for damage. He didn’t find anything wrong at first, and told a third class passenger holding a chunk of ice to return to bed. Very soon, however, another crewman reported damage to the forward compartments, and the postal clerk came to report that the mail room was quickly filling with water.

Boxhall’s next orders were to determine Titanic’s exact position. As the passengers made their way to the upper decks and the lifeboats were uncovered, he and Quartermaster George Rowe fired distress rockets from the ship’s rail. They used a Morse Lamp as well, in an attempt to signal the ship they saw in the distance, but to no avail.

When Lifeboat 2 was ready for lowering at 1:45 am, Boxhall was put in charge. The following is a transcript of a radio interview as he later described his experience in the lifeboat:

The sea was perfectly smooth when we left the ship. Every star in the heavens was visible, but there was no moon. So it was dark. And then, well everything was very peaceful …  no wind … and no moon, stars, smooth water, until after about an hour then the wind got up and there was a little sea. For a long time we didn't move the boat, when we laid off on the Starboard side. You could see by the ah, by the arrangements of the lights, all the lights were burning and you could see that she was going down. You could see that her stern was, was getting pretty low in the water. She was certainly going down, there was no doubt about it then. And, ah, well we pulled, we got away clear of the ship and we just laid on the oars until eventually they … they, ah … realized that she'd gone and we heard all the screams. We couldn't do anything. And, ah, the screams went on for some considerable time. I can't remember the time when she sank, but it was in the early hours.”

Following rescue, Joseph Boxhall testified at the American and British inquiries into the disaster. He returned to England, served aboard the Adriatic, then joined the Royal Naval Reserve before serving his country during World War I. He married after the war, then continued his career aboard several ships before his retirement in 1940. He acted as technical advisor during the filming of A Night to Remember in 1958.


Advertisement featuring Officer Boxhall

He had suffered from pleurisy periodically since Titanic’s sinking, and his health deteriorated rapidly in the 1960s. He died in 1967 at age 83, and requested that his ashes be scattered over the location he had calculated the night the ship went down.


Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica

Lifeboats on the Titanic

One of the reasons so many individuals perished on the Titanic was the lack of enough lifeboats for everyone. Titanic had a maximum capacity of 3327, but on her one and only voyage, around 2224 passengers and crew were on board. However, her 20 lifeboats were capable of carrying 1178 at most. And because most of the boats left the ship less than full, only 712 survived the sinking.

titanic boats approaching carpathia

Titanic lifeboats carrying survivors

Larger davits had been proposed for the new White Star Line ships, including Titanic, allowing for 48 lifeboats. But regulations issued by the Board of Trade required only 16 lifeboats for all British vessels over 10,000 tons. Titanic’s designers opted for 20 lifeboats, wanting to save on unnecessary costs and provide plenty of space for passengers to stroll the open decks. Twenty boats were more than the law required, and that seemed more than sufficient. After all, they could practically guarantee there would be no need for them.

Titanic carried 16 regular lifeboats, numbered 1 through 16. Eight even-numbered boats were mounted along her port side, and the eight odd-numbered boats along the starboard side. Four collapsible boats were stored near the bow, with two on either side.


Diagram showing lifeboat placement. Two collapsible boats (red) are not seen. The pink boats are emergency cutters.

Fourteen lifeboats each had a capacity of 65. They were 30 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. They were supposed to be equipped with oars, blankets, provisions, and flares, although some survivors claimed their boats lacked one or more of these items. Two emergency cutters, boats 1 and 2, were built to hold 40. They measured 25 feet long and 7 feet wide. Their purpose was for immediate emergencies, such as a man overboard, and were permanently swung out, ready for lowering. The four collapsible boats, A, B, C, and D, were 27 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 3 feet deep. They had canvas sides that could be raised in use and could be stored almost flat.

A number of mistakes and misconceptions led to the boats leaving Titanic at less than capacity:

1) The one lifeboat drill had been cancelled due to cold weather.

2) When Captain Smith ordered passengers to be loaded into the lifeboats, many refused, not aware of the real danger. They felt it was safer to remain onboard the ship than climb into a small boat and be lowered to the sea. Many women didn’t want to leave their husbands, brothers, or sons.

3) Crewmen had not been given adequate lifeboat training. Some charged with filling the boats weren’t sure of how many the boats could hold and lowered them half-full.

4) Some crewmen strictly enforced the ‘women and children first’ rule, and when no more women and children were immediately available for boarding, they lowered the boats as the men watched.

5) Third class passengers reached the boat deck late, due to a lack of information and language barriers. Some were purposely kept back by crewmen until first and second class passengers filled the boats. By the time more third class passengers reached the boat deck and the true urgency of the situation was realized, most of the boats had already gone.

Titanic-lifeboats after

Lifeboats dropped at White Star Line pier in New York following arrival of the Carpathia, carrying 712 survivors  

Only two lifeboats returned to the scene after the Titanic sank to rescue a few people in the water.

Following the inquiries into the sinking, a new ruling required every passenger vessel to be equipped with more than enough boats to carry every passenger and crewmember, and for crewmembers to be fully trained in lifeboat use. Also, lifeboat drills for all passengers on every voyage is now required by law.

Note: Beginning today, I will be posting on this blog every other Wednesday. As soon as my novel about Titanic survivor Ruth Becker is accepted for publication, I will share the news with you here. Thank you to all my readers! I look forward to bringing you more of the Titanic on April 13th, one day before the 104th anniversary of the sinking.

Photo credits:,, Wikipedia

One Family's Story

Dozens of families with third class tickets boarded Titanic at Southampton, Cherbourg, and Queenstown, with the hope of making a new start in America. Instead, some went to their graves, with every family member being lost in the sinking. For those that survived, many lost family members. Only a handful of third class families reached New York Harbor intact.Frank Goldsmith, 33, worked as a machinist in Strood, England. He and his wife, Emily, had one son, nine-year-old Frankie. They’d lost a younger son, Bertie, to diphtheria in 1911, and Emily’s father encouraged the family to come to Detroit, where he had emigrated, for a new start. All the publicity about Titanic and her comfortable third class accommodations won Frank over, and the decision was made. Frank’s coworkers in Strood gave him a new set of tools as a parting gift, Emily packed her Singer sewing machine, and Frankie dropped his new cap pistol into their packing case.

Goldsmith family

Frank and Emily Goldsmith with Frankie and Bertie in 1907

In Detroit, an English neighbor of Emily’s father arranged for his younger brother, Alfred Rush, to travel with the Goldsmiths. Alfred would turn 16 during the voyage. Another friend from Strood, 34-year-old Thomas Theobald, also traveled with them.

Frankie couldn’t wait for his big adventure ahead. His mother bought a seasickness remedy called Gibson’s Fruit Tablets, and Frankie ate them like candy on board Titanic, even though he didn’t feel the least bit seasick. He was thrilled to learn they would stop in Cherbourg and Queenstown before heading to America.


Frankie with his mother

Frankie recalled, “Not only were we going to America, we were going to another land, France! Then bonus wise, we would also be going to Ireland next, two fairy-tale places that tripled the joy in the eyes of a nine-year-old boy.” As Titanic left Queenstown on their second day at sea, Frankie said, “Mummy! At last we’re on the ‘lantic!” He soon made friends with several other English-speaking boys in third class. They climbed the baggage cranes and sneaked into the lower decks to watch the stokers at work.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg, Frank Goldsmith managed to quickly usher his family, Alfred, and Thomas to the lifeboats. Emily and Frankie were put into Collapsible C. Frank told his son, “See you later, Frankie,” and stepped away to allow women and children to board. Alfred had celebrated his birthday and proudly wore his first pair of long pants. He was small for his age, according to Frankie, and may have passed for a child and been allowed to board. But Alfred declared, “I’m staying here with the men!” Thomas gave his wedding ring to Emily, asking her to send it to his wife back in England.

Frank Goldsmith, Alfred, and Thomas did not survive. Only Thomas’ body was recovered.

Emily Goldsmith and Frankie made their way to Detroit with the help of the Salvation Army. For a long time, Frankie hoped his father would somehow walk through their door, until he gradually accepted the fact that his father had perished in the disaster.

He and his mother moved to a home near Detroit's Navin Field, which later became Tiger Stadium. For years, whenever the Detroit Tigers scored a home run, the roar of the crowd reminded Frankie of the screams from the dying passengers in the water as the Titanic sank. He married and had three sons, but never took his children to baseball games for that reason. He later moved to Ohio and in 1981, wrote Echoes in the Night: Memories of a Titanic Survivor. It became the only book written by a third class passenger about the sinking.


Frank Goldsmith in 1980

Frankie Goldsmith died in 1982 at age 79. That April 15th, the 70th anniversary of the sinking, his ashes were scattered over the area where Titanic rests, and where he lost saw his father. Today, the Goldsmith family continues to share the story with Titanic enthusiasts around the US and the world.

What the Doctor Saw

Dr. Washington Dodge boarded the Titanic in Southampton with his wife and five-year-old son, following a short European vacation. They were on their way home to San Francisco, where Dr. Dodge had been elected to his fourth term as city assessor following a successful career as a physician.


Dr. Washington Dodge 

Following Titanic’s collision with the iceberg, Mrs. Dodge and her son were helped into Lifeboat 5. Dr. Dodge managed to find a seat in Lifeboat 13. Twelve-year-old Ruth Becker was put into the same boat, after she was separated from her family. In my novel, Ruth learns Dr. Dodge’s name as they await rescue.


Mrs. Dodge and son Washington Jr.

He is quoted in the San Francisco Bulletin later that week, after his return home.“I watched the lowering of the boat in which my wife and child were until it was safely launched…and I remained on the starboard side where the boats with the odd numbers from one to fifteen were being prepared…I waited until what I thought was the end. I certainly saw no sign of women or children on deck when I was told to take a seat in boat No. 13.”

Dodge account of sinking from Gilder Lehrman Collection

Dr. Dodge's account of the sinking, written aboard the Carpathia

He described a gushing stream of water from Titanic’s condenser that sent Boat 13 into the path of Boat 15 as it was lowered. He then told what happened after the lifeboat was finally rowed away from the ship.

“We saw the sinking of the vessel. The lights continued burning all along its starboard side until the moment of its downward plunge. After that a series of terrific explosions occurred, I suppose either from the boilers or the weakened bulkheads."

Dodge voiced his opinion of the lifeboats. "Only one of the boats had a lantern...If a sea had been running I do not see how many of the small boats would have lived. For instance, on my boat there were neither one officer or a seaman. The only men at the oars were stewards who could no more row than I could serve a dinner."

Aboard the Carpathia, Dr. Dodge was reunited with his family. Back in San Francisco, he gave interviews and spoke about his Titanic experience to several local newspapers, citing what he considered to be the many reasons why so many lives were lost. He claimed he’d seen at least one officer fire shots at male passengers from third class as they attempted to board the last boats. Other survivors gave similar stories, although they were inconsistent and none could be proven.


San Francisco Bulletin column, April 19, 1912

Seven years later, Dr. Dodge was involved in a lawsuit and was distraught over the defamation of his character, according to close friends. He shot himself at his home and died a week later at the age of 60.

Everything she owned

After running a nursing home in England for 20 years, Lucy Ridsdale looked forward to moving to her sister’s house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a stop in Marietta, Georgia to see another sister. She packed everything she owned, including several family heirlooms and other items that had been gifts from friends, paid all the necessary excess baggage fees, and sent everything to be loaded aboard the Titanic for her journey to America.

replica of titanic's hold

Replica of Titanic cargo hold

Single at 58, Lucy occupied a second class cabin with 28-year-old Mary Davis, who was emigrating to New York where her siblings lived. Lucy had a club foot, and on the night of the sinking, Mary helped Lucy to the Boat Deck where they boarded Lifeboat 13.

In my pre-published novel, the main character, passenger Ruth Becker, meets Lucy in the lifeboat after it moves away from the sinking ship. As Lifeboat 13 was lowered to the ocean’s surface, a heavy stream from a condenser sprayed the boat and pushed it ahead, right underneath another lifeboat as it descended. The frightened passengers could almost reach up and touch the other boat, until someone cut Boat 13’s ropes, still attached to the davits up on deck. Finally free of Titanic, the boat's 64 occupants rowed about until morning. Passengers agreed if the sea had not been calm, many of the lifeboats could not have made it through the night.

After rescue, Lucy was first listed among the missing, until she sent a telegram to her sister in Marietta. Not long after the disaster, she made a detailed claim for her belongings, for a total value of $3,146.00. She had saved a claim ticket given to her as she boarded, which she presented with other documents. Today, these original records are housed in the U.S. National Archives in Washington D.C. Here is a part of her list of lost items:

LR's list.png

She states in a letter to the White Star Line, “This list includes household and personal effects which the two ladies I am inclosing addresses from England know I possessed...This lady has known me for 20 years and can testify as to my having had a nursing home of my own at Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. I brought everything expecting to make my home here with my sisters in Marietta and Milwaukee…”

The White Star Line made every effort to pay passengers who filed claims for loss of property, although there is no record if Lucy herself received anything. She is listed as residing at a Chicago hotel in the 1920 census, and a resident in an Old People’s Home in 1930. Lucy Ridsdale died at age 91 in Chicago.

Photo credits: National Archives and Howard Digital


Titanic's hardworking steward

When John Hardy signed on as Titanic’s Chief Second Class Steward, he brought with him fourteen years’ experience at sea. In my yet-to-be-published novel, Ruth Becker meets Hardy just after Titanic has departed Southampton, and is thrilled to learn he has a pram for her to push her little brother on deck.

john hardy

John Hardy

Hardy had worked for the White Star Line for twelve years, serving aboard four ships. In between his duties, he’d married his landlady’s daughter, Etta, in Liverpool, and had two children, Ronald in 1903 and Norah in 1905. The family moved to Southampton, and were living there at the time of Titanic’s sailing in 1912.

John, 36, was already on board as Titanic made her way from the Harland and Wollf shipyards in Belfast on April 2nd, arriving in Southampton on April 4th. The next day, Good Friday, the ship was decorated with colorful flags and pennants as a salute to Southampton. But before she could begin her maiden voyage on April 10th, most of the crew would be hired, thousands of tons of coal would be loaded, and supplies for the voyage would be brought aboard, including enough food for a small city. Also, any cargo, including crates of goods purchased abroad by American customers, was loaded into the cargo hold.

John Hardy was responsible for overseeing 162 second class cabins. On the night of the sinking, he turned off all unnecessary lights in the second class areas, went to bed around 11:30 pm, then felt a slight shock. Checking the passageway, he found nothing amiss and returned to bed. Then the Chief First Class Steward woke him with the news of what happened. John proceeded to rouse the stewardesses and assist passengers to the lifeboats. He worked on deck until the last lifeboat was launched, followed by the collapsible boats. He managed to board the last one, carrying 25 passengers, just 15 minutes before the ship sank. Later, they tied the boat up together with six other boats and took on ten more passengers.

collapsible lifeboat folded away

Example of a collapsible lifeboat with its sides folded away


Titanic crewmembers following rescue

John Hardy continued to work for the White Star Line, then aboard hospital ships and troop transports during the First World War. Twins were born to John and Etta in 1919, and the family moved to New Jersey, where John continued for twenty years as Chief Steward for various ships in the United States Line.

John Hardy died at his son’s home at the age of 82.

hardy tombstone

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and New York Times

The Publisher and the Pekinese

Beginning this week, I wish to to introduce you to some of the real Titanic passengers and crewmembers who have a role in my pre-published novel, which is based on the true story of 12-year-old passenger Ruth Becker. (Some of the real-life characters in the novel have already been featured on the blog, such as Captain Edward Smith, passenger John Jacob Astor, and orchestra leader Wallace Hartley.) We’ll start with a man Ruth meets on her first venture onto Titanic’s Promenade Deck, as he struggles to hold a very wiggly Pekinese...


Henry Sleeper Harper was the director of Harper and Brothers Publishing House, which his grandfather had founded in the 1800s but was not formally dedicated to publishing until 1900. The firm published several magazines, including Harper’s Weekly and Harper’s Bazaar. Henry also served on the board for the protection of the Adirondacks, and was instrumental in preventing logging of the area.

Forty-eight-year-old Henry and his wife, Myra, boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France, along with their Egyptian interpreter and guide, Hammad. The Harpers had been in Paris, where their Pekinese dog, Sun Yat Sen, had won a top prize at a dog show.


Sun Yat Sen

On the night of the sinking, the couple were finishing a late dinner when they were told to return to their cabin for warm clothes and lifebelts and report to the Boat Deck. They headed for the starboard side and boarded Lifeboat 3, along with Hammad and Sun Yat Sen. All were rescued by the Carpathia. Sun Yat Sen was one of three dogs that survived the sinking of the Titanic. In regard to being allowed to board the lifeboat with a dog, Harper replied later, “There seemed to be plenty of room at the time and no one offered any objection.”

myra and sun

Mrs. Henry Harper with Sun Yat Sen

The Harpers did not have children, and Myra died in 1923. Henry married Anne Hopson and had a son, also named Henry. Henry Sleeper Harper died at the age of 79 after a lengthy illness. He is buried in New York City, along with Myra and Anne.

In the 1990s, the company merged with William Collins & Sons of Great Britain to form HarperCollins.

photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica

The Owner Who Saved Himself

When the Titanic sank in 1912, most of the blame for the disaster centered on White Star Line’s chairman and managing director, J. Bruce Ismay. After all, it was his ship that caused more than 1500 deaths on its maiden voyage. And the fact that Ismay jumped in a lifeboat and survived added to the worldwide attention and controversy. ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay was born in Liverpool in 1862, the son of Thomas Ismay, senior partner of Ismay, Imrie and company and founder of the White Star Line. Bruce was made a partner in the firm at age 29, then promoted to head the business when his father died in 1899. In 1901, Ismay agreed to a merger with American shipping companies led by J. Pierpont Morgan. The White Star Line then became part of the International Mercantile Marine Company.

In 1907, Ismay and Lord Pirrie, partner at Belfast shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, agreed to construct a series of luxurious ocean liners that would outshine Cunard’s new Lusitania and Mauritania. The new WSL ships would carry more third class immigrants to America and offer the very best in accommodations to the wealthy.

As he did on many of the maiden voyages for White Star Line’s ships, Bruce Ismay boarded Titanic as she left Southampton on April 10, 1912. Following the collision with the iceberg, some claimed Ismay assisted with the evacuation of women and children to the lifeboats. Following rescue, Ismay testified at both the US and British inquiries that when he boarded the lifeboat known as Collapsible C, all other boats had left Titanic’s starboard side and no women and children were present.

From the lifeboat, Ismay was so overcome with emotion that he was unable to look as the Titanic sank. Onboard the Carpathia, he was given a private cabin and had to be sedated. Visitors found him in shock and mostly unresponsive for a good part of the trip to New York.

Despite his testimony at the inquiries, hostile newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic labeled Ismay a coward for not remaining on the Titanic as she sank. His reputation never recovered, and he retired from the White Star Line in 1913. Every movie about the disaster depicts Ismay as a villain, regardless of the lack of evidence against him.

headlines after sinking

In Ismay and the Titanic, author Paul Louden-Brown writes, ‘Hundreds of thousands of pounds were paid out in insurance claims to the relatives of the Titanic's victims; the misery created by the disaster and its aftermath dealt with by Ismay and his directors with great fortitude, this, despite the fact that he could easily have shirked his responsibilities and resigned from the board.'

Bruce Ismay died at the age of 74 after a long battle with diabetes. He is buried in the family grave in London.

ismay obit

Photo credits:,

Friend of the President

Major Archibald Butt was a respected military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. When President Taft took office in 1909, Butt remained as presidential advisor. In early 1912, he took a long-awaited vacation to Europe with writer and artist Francis Millet and visited with Pope Pius X. For their return trip to Washington D.C., Butt and Millet booked first class cabins aboard the Titanic.

Archibald Butt

On the night of April 14, Major Butt attended a private dinner party in Titanic’s ala carte restaurant. Captain Smith and railroad executive John Thayer were also at the party. Afterwards, Butt went to the first class smoking room to play cards. When the ship struck the iceberg, a few survivors claimed he helped passengers board the lifeboats and aided in the evacuation in other ways. Others claimed he returned to the smoking room. Yet others, including Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, stated Major Butt may have assisted but most likely watched the proceedings quietly. His body was not recovered.

A memorial service took place a few weeks later, with 1500 mourners attending. President Taft delivered the eulogy:

“If Archie could have selected a time to die he would have chosen the one God gave him. His life was spent in self–sacrifice, serving others. His forgetfulness of self had become a part of his nature. Everybody who knew him called him Archie. I couldn't prepare anything in advance to say here. I tried, but couldn't. He was too near me. He was loyal to my predecessor, Mr. Roosevelt, who selected him to be military aide, and to me he had become as a son or a brother.”

Another service was held in Major Butt’s honor in Washington D.C. Again, President Taft spoke, but was unable to finish when he broke down and wept.

Taft and Butt

President William Howard Taft and Major Archibald Butt

A fountain near the White House is dedicated to Archibald Butt and Francis Merritt. Other memorials to Archibald Butt include an empty tomb at Arlington National Cemetery.

butt memorial fountain

Butt-Merritt Memorial Fountain, Washington DC

photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica,